Module Details for the Academic Year 2018/2019

ENG10180 Comics and Fantasy

Friedrich Nietzsche infamously declared that God is dead. Later, Carl Jung diagnosed the distinctive illness of the twentieth century as that of a godless age in search of meaning. The twentieth century witnessed a rejection of old, official myths (God, the immortal soul, the nation state, etc.), which are supplanted by new ones that first emerge in so-called low, popular culture. Fantasy texts address various crises of meaning, by providing readers and audiences with new myths, new gods. This course will explore the connections between fantasy, popular media and crises in the conception of the modern self, as mapped through events such as WWII, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the triumph of late capitalism, and present-day fundamentalist terrorism. Sigmund Freud asserts that fantasy fulfills unconscious wishes, or 'lacks'. What do our enduring popular myths of roughly the last 100 years reveal about us, individually and collectively? Why are characters like Aslan, Superman, Batman and Bilbo Baggins such enduring figures of the modern imagination, easily translating from medium to medium (cheap paperbacks and comics, to film and TV)? Do they represent a hunger for old authority? Or, could they be archetypes of new humanist liberation? The course will address these questions and others through analysis of a selection of key comics and fantasy texts, including the following:

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit; Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One; Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins; C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four and The Avengers; Joss Whedon's The Avengers; Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Uncanny X-Men; Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen; Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman; J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones; Neil Gaiman's American Gods

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On completion of this module, students will be able to:

Outline major developments and trends in popular fantasy texts from the 1930s to the present

Describe various significant features of a series of canonical modern fantasy texts

Explain how the set texts respond to various contemporary cultural crises

Compare different treatments of key themes, such as agency, morality and meaning, across a range of texts

Construct a creative and analytical response to major questions raised in the module in one of a range of formats 
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This module is not passable by compensation

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If you fail this module you may repeat, resit or substitute where permissible

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